Bakeware Is Not Created Equal
When preparing a recipe, the cookware used is equally important as the ingredients added. Different materials can alter how evenly heat distributes, and the care required when cleaning varies. Whether you’re shopping for new bakeware or deciding which to use at home for a recipe, the options can feel overwhelming. There are multiple options, including glass, cast iron, ceramic, stoneware, silicone, and metal. The good thing is that recipes can be made using various materials. The only factors that will change are the bake time and how the pan is cleaned. To help make the decision easier, I will cover each material, including its pros and cons.
Glassware Pros and Cons
Glass is a popular choice when purchasing cookware, thanks to its table setting appeal and being dishwasher friendly. One of the best benefits glassware offers the ability to retain heat, even after baking. Glass cools off much more slowly than metal and silicone, allowing pans to act as a short-term food warmer. While glass keeps food warmer longer, it can cook crusts until the pan cools.
Because of the heat retention, baking for the total cooking time may result in overbaked crusts and edges. If baking a quiche or casserole and you wish to avoid burnt crusts or edges, shorten the baking time by 10%. Once out of the oven, cover the dish with foil. Foil traps the heat in to cook the center while reducing the temperature of the glass. If cooking meats, be sure to check the internal temperature before serving.
A second benefit is that glass can sit in warm water to clean. You can soak a glass pan overnight without worrying about discoloration or rust forming. Only wash pans once they have reached room temperature. Glass does not handle rapid temperature changes well and can actually crack or even shatter. The second downside of glass is that it is heavier than metal and can easily break if dropped.
The Pros and Cons of Cast Iron
Cast Iron has become one of my favorite metals to use in baking and cooking. Cast iron offers superior durability, heat distribution, and even cooking. Like glass and ceramic, cast iron retains heat after removal from a heat source, further cooking food. When heating a cast iron pan, the best method is low and slow heat. If heated too fast, uneven hot spots can form on the surface. Cast iron offers nonstick cooking if seasoned well, especially if seasoned between uses. In cast iron’s case, seasoning requires oil, not spices.
When seasoning cast iron, apply thin layers of cooking oil that can withstand high temperatures. When tilting the pan, oil should not drip or pool. After each layer, cast iron is baked upside down between 350 and 400 degrees for an hour and then cooled in an oven. The oi fills in microscopic pores of the iron, creating a smooth cooking surface. Cast iron should never wash in a dishwasher, only by hand. Dishwashers can wear away the layers of seasoning, reducing the nonstick efficiency. When handwashing, use a small amount of soap without harsh chemicals and a non-abrasive scrubber. The only con is the time that seasoning can require with cast iron, but it’s well worth it.
The Pros and Cons of Ceramic and Stoneware
Ceramic and stoneware are similar, though there are differences in how they are made. Stoneware is made of heavier clay, fired at higher temperatures, and isn’t glazed or decorated. Both ceramic and stoneware pans offer heat retention and distribution and tolerate higher temperatures. The cons of ceramic and stoneware are that they are heavy, stoneware is even heavier due to denser clay, and can break if dropped.
If baking with ceramic or stoneware, keep in mind that both can continue cooking food once removed from an oven from the heat retention. Because stoneware contains denser clay, it will stay hotter than ceramic dishes. As with glass, to prevent crusts or brownie bottoms from browning too much, remove items baked in ceramic or stoneware from an oven about 10% early. Cover the pan with foil to help trap in heat if the center needs to cook further.
The Pros and Cons of Metal Pans
Metal pans have multiple classes and styles under the material umbrella of metal. Each style has their own strengths and weaknesses, and some cooks have a good to material. One strength all metal pans share in common is the ability to heat and cool more quickly than glass. That is, all metals aside from cast iron, which heats and cools slowly. In addition, metal offers added durability if accidentally dropped. A downside of metal is that it can rust and discolor with use, and if soaked in water. The common types of metal pans are aluminum, steel, nonstick coated, and insulated.
The pros of aluminum pans:
- Aluminum pans are the most affordable metal variety
- They are lightweight, heat quickly, and evenly cook
The cons of aluminum pans:
- Acidic ingredients, such as tomato, citrus, and pineapple, can react with aluminum, affecting the taste.
- Aluminum can stain more easily stain steel and nonstick pans
- Best to hand wash and dry immediately, as dishwashers can discolor pan
The pros of steel bakeware:
- Steel offers more durability than aluminum and is dishwasher safe
- You can cook acidic foods in steel without the risk of reactions occurring
The cons of steel:
- Steel heats slower than aluminum and offers less even heat distribution
The pros of non-stick:
- Food is less likely to stick, and when it does, it removes from the surface more easily
The cons of non-stick:
- Metal utensils can scratch the non-stick coating. Silicone and wood utensils are the best options to use
- To protect non-stick cookware’s coating, it is best to handwash rather than dishwashing
Insulated pans are an excellent option for more delicate bakes, such as meringues and macarons. Insulated metal pans are two pieces of metal pressed together, with an air gap between the layers. The cons will depend on whether the pan is aluminum or steel.
The Pros and Cons of Silicone
Silicone has become a popular material in bakeware thanks to its versatility and affordability. Silicone bakeware can handle high temperatures, temperature changes and cools quickly. In some cases, you can even touch silicone within minutes of removal from an oven. However, caution should always apply when handling hot foods and cookware. Silicone offers a non-stick surface and can be folded during storage to help save space. The one con of working with silicone is that sharp utensils can easily pierce the material. Silicone is dishwasher safe, though it can cause water spots. To prevent water spots, hand wash and dry immediately.
Choose Bakeware Based on Time Budgets
After comparing the pros and cons of bakeware, there are two key takeaways to consider when selecting bakeware. The first is that if you often cook high acidic foods, such as upside-down pineapple cakes, lasagnas, etcetera, they do not mix well with aluminum. Instead, opt for steel or a non-metal option. The second consideration is your time budget. Silicone and steel are great options if you frequently make recipes that need to chill quickly after baking. For bakeware that is cleanup friendly, silicone and glass are great options.
Cooking With Your Favorite Bakeware
When you begin to use your cookware at home, I have some tips to help to ensure that recipes turn out the same no matter the material you choose:
- The internal temperature is always the best test if meats cook entirely. Place a probed thermometer in the center of the thickest section, checking multiple pieces.
- When baking with glass, ceramic, and stoneware, reduce the cooking time by 10%, and cover with foil once removed from an oven. Covering with foil allows the glass to start cooling, slowing the cooking of the crust. The foil allows the center of the good to continue to cook. If cooking meats, be sure to check the internal temperature.
- An alternative to shortening the cooking time is to decrease the baking temperature. I will reduce the temperature by about 15%, rounding to the nearest increment. For example, reducing 350 degrees by 15% would be 297.5 degrees Fahrenheit, rounded to 300. Check baked goods with a knife or the internal temperature of meats to test if recipes need more cooking time.
As you use the same cookware over time, you will become familiar with how the baking times are affected. One trick you can use is to keep notes of baking times, especially of recipes made often. Writing notes of how recipes turn out is a great way to ensure that future bakes turn out the way you intended. My favorite cookware to use at home is cast iron and stainless steel. They’re the most versatile cookware and produce consistent bakes. We’d love to hear about some of your favorite styles of pans to cook and bake with at home!